Dear Pradhan Mantriji

Spare a thought for our ill-treated and demotivated teachers when you take the stage on Teachers’ Day.

Published: September 5, 2014 12:05 am
Their salary and work conditions are pathetic. Most states have come up with schemes to recruit cheap, unqualified teachers. Their salary and work conditions are pathetic. Most states have come up with schemes to recruit cheap, unqualified teachers.

By: Yogendra Yadav

I have had occasions to disagree with your politics and policies. But I write this letter not as a member of an opposition party but as an ex-teacher, a parent and a citizen.

I come from a teachers’ family. My great grandfather was a schoolteacher, and so was my grandfather. My father retired as a college teacher and my mother as a schoolteacher. I had little choice, especially since I was born on Teachers’ Day. So, I taught at a university and married someone who is a university teacher. I am no longer a teacher by profession, but remain one at heart.

My daughter tells me that her school timings have been changed for today: instead of 8am to 2pm, it will be 12pm to 5pm. It is not a big bother for her. Perhaps she likes this change. But what bothers her is that all this is done to ensure that the entire school can listen to you on a big screen. She does not know what you are going to speak about. Now, she has no objection to listening to the prime minister. What she doesn’t understand is why she could not do so on TV at home. It’s a free country, she says, why can’t I have a choice? If it had to be done at school, why couldn’t you adjust your schedule to suit school timings?

I know you don’t mean to do this. Perhaps the decision was taken by some over-enthusiastic, control-freak babu. But even before you speak, you have unwittingly given my daughter a lesson in the rituals of power that go with the infamous VVIP culture: everything can be changed to suit saheb’s convenience. I don’t need to tell you this. Children learn little from official moral sermons. They learn from how their parents, teachers and peers conduct themselves.

I do not know how her teachers look upon this change. They are too discrete to talk about it, but I suspect they resent it. Not just for petty reasons of convenience but for something deeper. Their school has a beautiful way of celebrating Teachers’ Day that puts them at the centre. Now it puts you at the centre. It’s Teachers’ Day today (not Children’s Day), let it remain their day.

Perhaps the best way to mark this day would be to reflect on the status of about 50 lakh teachers in our country. A small minority of these teachers has a regular job, grade, scale, provident fund and all. They are paid better than my parents were, but they do not enjoy the same respect. My wife flares up when someone says that teaching is a good job for “ladies”, for what they mean is that it is full salary for a part-time job. This reflects a common perception of teachers as overpaid employees, as small cogs in the sarkari wheel. Those teachers who do their work honestly are condemned to face this hostile perception.

The condition of a majority of teachers is much worse. Their salary and working conditions are pathetic. Most state governments have come up with schemes to recruit cheap, unqualified teachers. These temporary, ad hoc or contractual teachers have no job security and get paid a small fraction of what a regular teacher would earn. Those who work in private schools and colleges usually get paid much less than what they sign on paper. Even in our colleges, teachers do not have a desk of their own, let alone an office or academic facilities.

Teachers’ recruitment is a scandal. Haryana’s former Chief Minister Om Prakash Chautala got caught and convicted in a scam involving teachers’ recruitment. He was just unlucky to have been caught doing something that everyone does and gets away with. Teachers’ education is a national shame. While we have done something to redeem our LLB degrees, the BEd degree continues to be one of the weakest links in our higher education chain. Most of the recommendations of the Justice Verma Committee on teachers’ education are still to be implemented.

As you speak to the students and (I hope) teachers this afternoon, please spare a thought for how we expect these underpaid, ill-treated and demotivated teachers to impart to children all the lofty values that we all love to talk about.

Perhaps my daughter would change her mind if you have some special announcement for her Madams and Sirs.

Yogendra Yadav

The writer is senior fellow, CSDS, currently on leave, and chief spokesperson of the Aam Aadmi Party

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  1. A
    Ashok Chowgule
    Sep 5, 2014 at 2:55 am
    It seems to me that it is the contention of Yogendra Yadav that the problems that the teachers have is the happening of the last 100 days or so!As in the past, it is clear that Yogendraji has very little knowledge of the intelligence of the readers. Furthermore, why has he not identified the name of the opposition party. And he should tell the citizens of this country what he has done to alleviate the problems of the teachers before he joined the political party. He was teaching at an insute funded by the state, and he was a member of the University Grants Commission. In all these positions, he was paid by the society. He has not fulfilled his dharma to that society.Namaste.Ashok ChowguleGoa, India.
    1. M
      Sep 5, 2014 at 1:55 am
      Unnecessary article.Is it not true, Mr. Yadav, that the AAP, a party you are a senior member of, as had members accused of corruption? Is it not true that you were routed in your Lok Sabha election? Don't you know that your party resigning from power in Delhi after 49 days is a Himalayan ber?So please, don't criticise dear Pradhan Mantriji, who won the elections by a thumping margin.
      1. A
        Sep 5, 2014 at 12:38 pm
        Dear Mr Yadav,Maybe your daughter school is morning time , but other children school at noon time. So,either way some children will need to reschedule their school timing to join everyone.I am confirmed , that you are not getting anything to say against Mr . Modi , so you are indulging in these kind of foolish techniques. This kind suits Mr . Rahul hi but not mature guys like yourself. Go get something other real issue to come into limelight.Ashish.
        1. A
          Amit Juneja
          Sep 5, 2014 at 8:19 am
          Why the students needs to go to school for studies. they should have freedom for that as well?. We should or anyone wait to comment before Our PM gives his speech. I agree it may not be the right time to speak to childerns on Teacher's day. But it may possible our PM give a good adive to childern to have respect, fath, trust in their teacher
          1. H
            Harish G
            Sep 5, 2014 at 6:33 am
            Yadav is a drama queen, much like the rest of the AAP leadership. If he really wanted to write to the PM, he should have done just that, instead of leaking it to the media.
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